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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Ind. Gov't. - It's back! "Lawmakers reconsider hourly search fee, changes to public records"

Lauryn Schroeder of the AP reported very late last evening:

A fee for public records requests that take longer than two hours to fulfill is back on the table this session, Indiana lawmakers said Tuesday.

House members have approved a proposal that would allow government agencies to charge a searching fee for record requests that take over two hours. After that time, they could charge up to $20 an hour.

Lawmakers considered the fee and other public record changes earlier this session but voted to remove the language in from another bill in March. * * *

Supporters of the proposal argue that compensation for search times would help alleviate the burden that large requests place on government resources. But critics say the measure could discourage in-depth records requests and give officials another tool to fight transparency.

Bill sponsor Republican Rep. Dennis Zent of Angola said local governments often receive complicated requests for documents from certain individuals.

"I don't think that's a wise use of taxpayer money if that's just one individual repeatedly doing it," Zent said.

Supporters also applaud a provision that would allow a requester to receive records electronically. The search fee would apply, but the requester would not have to pay a copying cost.

Currently, an agency can refuse to provide electronic copies, forcing a requester to pick up records in person and pay a copying fee.

Hoosier State Press Association Executive Director Steve Key said the benefit of getting records in an easy format outweighs the potential negatives of a search fee.

Key said it would also save time and resources for both government agencies and records requesters.

"This is going to probably force people to be a little bit more selective when they make records requests," he said. "It will be much more of a rifle approach as opposed to a shot gun or casting a fishing net."

Democratic Rep. Matt Pierce of Bloomington criticized the measure.

"The records are created with our tax dollars; the employees and the buildings are paid for with our tax dollars. If they've got to suffer through a few people who make outrageous requests, that's kind of the price of democracy," he said.

The Senate is set to vote on the measure Wednesday, the 2015 session deadline.

Unfortunately, the otherwise good story does not identify what bill the language has been slipped into...

As the ILB has reported before
, similar language was also introduced in 2014, and, just as now, it was supported by the Hoosier State Press Association. See earier ILB coverage, including March 15, 2015, and this second ILB post from the same date, which included:
The Hoosier State Press Association is supporting this bill again this year, but it is not that group's role to represent or speak for the interests of the Indiana public.
This post from March 24th reported that the changes to limit public access to records, buried within the massive "Education deregulation" package, had been deleted.

But now they are back, in a conference committee report already adopted by the House and awaiting Senate action.

[More] Here it is, the language has been inserted into the CCR report on Senate Bill 369:

(This conference committee report does the following: (1) Inserts provisions of
ESB 288, printed April 3, 2015 (as adopted by the House) that: (A) allow state and local
agencies to charge a fee for public record searches in excess of two hours; and (B) require
a public agency to provide a public record in electronic form if the record is in an electronic
format. (3) Inserts provisions of SB 288 as reprinted February 24, 2015 (as adopted by the
Senate) regarding publication of budget notices. (4) Provides that a locality newspaper
must be located in the political subdivision. Makes a technical correction.)
It is on today's Senate Calendar, adoption will send it to the Governor.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on April 29, 2015 08:26 AM
Posted to Indiana Government